GOP House leader: Perdue's proposed sales tax hike 'political'

Posted January 20, 2012 5:54 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2012 8:15 a.m. EST

— Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue said this week that she plans to propose a temporary .75-cent sales tax increase in her next budget to restore some of the education cuts made by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

The announcement Tuesday has drawn ire from state GOP leaders, including House Majority Leader Paul Stam who said Friday that Perdue's pitch is nothing more than politics at play.

"No. 1, it's not going to happen. No. 2, she knows it's not going to happen, and No. 3, the reason she is doing it is so she does not have to submit a realistic budget," Stam, R-Wake said.

The proposed increase would raise the sales tax in most counties from 6.75 percent to 7.5 percent. For an average family, that would be about $15 per month. It would generate an estimated $750 to $800 million in revenue over the year that the hike would be in place, according to the governor's office.

Stam said funding for education in the final budget lawmakers approved is only half a percent less than what Perdue originally proposed for 2011. He said they took necessary steps in tough budget times, while protecting teachers and classrooms.

"State government has been protected much more than the private sector," he said.

Stam worries that an increase would hurt families and take a toll on already struggling companies and lead to thousands of jobs lost in the private sector.

In a news release Friday, he said North Carolina residents would be more likely to go to Georgia or Virginia – where the sales tax rate would be lower – to purchase expensive goods. Residents from Tennessee and South Carolina – where the sales tax rate would be higher – would also be less likely to shop for expensive goods in North Carolina, he said.

"By proposing $850 (sic) million in new revenue, the budget she submits for the 2012-2013 year will not need to make any realistic choices," Stam said in the release. "She can propose all sorts of spending increases to please her political pals, knowing that it will not happen."

Perdue has said that she is ready to fight lawmakers and do anything necessary to undo what she calls "serious damage to the core of North Carolina's educational backbone."

Next year, when federal education funding runs out, could be worse, and she has said that she believes voters will back her proposal to avoid deeper cuts.

State School Superintendent June Atkinson said Friday that the cuts in this year's budget have forced schools across the state to eliminate more than nearly 4,000 vacant positions and to lay off more than 2,400 employees.

"One of the ways to kill public education in our state is to cut off the supply line," Atkinson said.

Political debate aside, Atkinson said there are thousands fewer educators working in North Carolina and she worries about the impact.

"Public education does need more resources," she said. "It is evident when you spend time in the classroom."